As of today, the whole academic community always fears the proliferation of plagiarism in different levels of both the students’ and educators’ academic lives. Plagiarism is defined as claiming one’s work without giving due credit to its source (Baker, et al., 2008). Furthermore, plagiarism as an academic crime is usually explained through literary theft, which means that parts of an existing literature is used by another individual without the consent of the real owner, and without following the rules of literary tools such as paraphrasing (Baker, et al., 2008). Plagiarism as an academic crime used to be paid with minimal attention, because of the leniency of both educators and students towards understanding the possible reasons for committing such a crime. Due to this leniency, plagiarism crept too deep in the academic world that it became a trend that needs to be stopped before getting out of hand. As of 2008, the American Council on Higher Education found out that since the start of the 1990s, seventy five percent of students are practicing plagiarism (or even worse, grew ignorant of it) (Baker, et al., 2008). The trend grew steadily so fast that it appears as a very contagious disease within the whole academic world. Plagiarism is considered as the tipping point of the new culture of honesty among students, and even the failure of educational systems. This might be true; but only until the introduction of the improvements in the academic world that aid in the prevention of plagiarism such as copyright laws and intellectual property rights, the war against plagiarism formally started.
Checking for plagiarism is a very laborious and tedious task that educators together with their universities are deemed to do. Due to this fact, many styles and strategies for checking and stopping plagiarism have been put into practice. These attempts to check for and stop plagiarism have evolved from the simplest ways to more convenient ones. Universities back then opted to hire numerous assistants that would check whether the works submitted by their students are plagiarism free have been transformed to newer and more advanced ways, such as the introduction of plagiarism checking programs. Among the leading online plagiarism checking programs, Turnitin.com is one of the most prominent. With just a click on the company website, any visitor would easily spot any cases of plagiarism in their work, with the company proud of over a hundred million of submitted papers successfully checked for plagiarism. Alongside with the more than half million users who are members of their 8,500 universities and institutions affiliates, Turnitin.com seems to be on a very clear path to success as the leading plagiarism checker in the whole world. However, amidst all the approvals that Turnitin.com was able to garner after the years of its service providing, there are also a quite recognizable countering party that frowns at the very existence of Turnitin.com. In line with this, this paper would establish head on that the arguments to be found in the other parts of this paper will be based on the criticisms posed against Turnitin.com.
This paper would exert all possible resources in presenting arguments on the legal implications of Turnitin.com. For the sake of cultivating a healthy and very understandable set of arguments, this paper will be guided on three major aspects of the prevalent criticisms on Turnitin.com. First, this paper will present the existence of the clash against Turnitin.com through actual legal cases filed against iParadigm, which is the mother company of Turnitin.com. Second, this paper will use these cases to draw out explanative and conclusive statements that will shed some light on Turnitin.com on two main aspects—notions of originality and corporate profiteering. Third, this paper will base most of its discussions on the assumptive argument, that iParadigm through Turnitin.com has failed to compensate students and other contributors in their archive of submitted papers. Furthermore, this shortcoming on the part of Turnitin.com will be put into light on the fact that it is a profit oriented company that gains profit, all without according what is due to its main proponents. Finally, this paper will be concluded by analyzing the findings of this paper on legal background and academic bearing.
1. The Clashes against Turnitin.com
Among the criticisms that Turnitin.com is continually being pressured with, legal complaints and cases are the most pronounced proof that clashes against the company really exist. Taking as an example, the two year trial of copyright infringement against Turnitin.com was filed by four students in 2007 as a protest on the company’s role in their academic lives (Hendry, 2009). Copyright infringement was the case filed because the students claim that iParadigm, through Turnitin.com has deliberately stolen and used for its own benefits their submitted academic papers (Hendry, 2009). The students justify their claim by trying to prove that the archiving method of Turnitin.com is a clear violation of their legal claims to the copyright of their works, and that their collected papers will be used by Turnitin.com for its own gains without recognizing the vital part played by those who submitted the papers (Bailey, 2008). A claim of similar nature was filed by students of a university, because of the fail or pass situation that they are put into since most universities are now employing the services of plagiarism detecting programs and tools (Framed, 2008). Other clashes against Turnitin.com would most probably be of the same nature with these two cases; these cases will be used throughout this paper to justify its arguments and support its generalization in the paper’s latter parts.
The prosecuting parties on the filed cases have presented strong arguments why Turnitin.com should be sanctioned because of these crimes. Unfortunately, Turnitin.com was able to evade such complaints by making it appear as if the company is making a great deal of contribution to the academic world (Bailey, 2008). The court ruled that iParadigm, through Turnitin.com, is giving help in the ongoing attempts to improve the quality of education through cultivating a culture of both academic and scholastic excellence (Dontturnitin.com, 2007). The students lost to the cases that they have filed simply because iParadigm was able to justify the need for the existence of Turnitin.com and its kinds in the academic world.
2. Notions of Originality and the Questions regarding Turnitin.com’s Corporatism
3. iParadigm’s Failure in Compensating its Life Line
It is true that companies such as Turnitin.com are highly dependent on the comprehensiveness of its archive. This comprehensiveness can only be achieved through acquiring as much as possible resources. As for the case of this paper, the acquisition of resources by Turnitin.com has already been viewed through it being a violation of some of the basic student rights, such as intellectual property rights and copyright laws. Following the nature of operations of this company, it can be said that it was able to gain advantage from the fact that it houses both online and offline works; offline works being the unpublished and submitted papers by many students of the company’s university subscribers. It is already established that the company’s operation lies in detecting plagiarism through the process of comparing submitted papers against other submitted papers. In a way, the credibility of this company in serving as a plagiarism detecting tool lies in the numbers of the submitted works which can be used to compare incoming papers with. Furthermore, it can be said that iParadigm is indebted to its contributors; the same contributors which it fails to compensate for their role in the whole operation of the company. Even if the company is highly profit oriented, it is gaining its capital without having to pay for it. This fact can be considered to be one of the major frustrations by the company’s critics. They argue that iParadigm should not have the power to violate copyright laws and intellectual property laws and use it to gain an edge over its competitors by using the company’s archive papers for free.
4. The Legal Implications and Academic Bearing of Turnitin.com through the Cases Presented
In closely studying the legal implications of Turnitin.com, it can be said that the free pass given to the company by the court where the case was filed represent the possible legal loophole that companies such as Turnitin.com is benefitting from. Furthermore, the compulsory enrolment in the services provided by companies such as Turnitin.com can be the reason for nurturing the grievances and criticisms on Turnitin.com as a paradox of legality (Martin, 2004). Legal definitions of plagiarism should also be reassessed, if those who engage in the study of companies such as Turnitin.com would opt to use the old meaning of plagiarism, Turnitin.com could be found guilty beyond undeniable doubt. The use of supposedly anonymous submitted papers can be compromised if other parties enrolled in the services of the company would require the submitted papers that their papers have been compared with. There are definitions of plagiarism that Turnitin.com can qualify with, such as plagiarism of sources. The use of not consented sources from other papers can be deemed as a form of plagiarism. If this is the definition of plagiarism to be used, Turnitin.com can come up guilty (Martin, 2004).These legal implications also come along with distinct academic bearing.
Turnitin.com and other plagiarism detecting programs is conclusively defined by this paper as a potent valuable aspect of the academic world, if it will not be compulsory and only conducted on a case to case basis (Martin, 2004).The reason for this generalization lies within the fact that Turnitin.com continually fails to address the issue of having a need to compensate its contributors. The compensation need not only be money; further compensations on the possible subjective bearing on the students and other subjects of plagiarism detecting programs should be equally addressed. The academic life of students is not only determined by the things that they will learn in their school years. Academic life can also be attributed with the need for developing a culture that would make learning more conducive (Rees and Emerson, 2009). Unfortunately, this area of academic life is the part where Turnitin.com and other plagiarism detecting programs show their disorienting effects. These effects can be classified in three major types, change in roles of educators, change in the notion of originality and new meaning of intellectual property rights.
Students and other individuals subjected to such services are being exposed to the feeling of being prejudicially treated as guilty of plagiarism (Dontturnitin.com, 2007). Instead of insuring that the students will learn new things through an encouraging environment, educators through such programs begin to become police instead of teachers (Framed, 2008). The view towards originality is also compromised because such programs change the qualifications and definitions of acts of borrowing and imitating (Framed, 2008). Lastly, contention on the valuation of writing as a property can also be observed. The way Turnitin.com treats written papers from the students’ hard work and perseverance deteriorates the definition of the personal and private aspect of writing (Framed, 2008). After stating all of this, this paper sees that it is able to support its arguments on the effects caused by the prevalence of plagiarism detecting programs such as iParadigm’s Turnitin.com.
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